In A Midsummer Night's Dream, how is the 'love-in-idleness' flower a symbol?
The flower can been seen as symbolic because of the flower's ability to alter the course of love; therefore, love is inconstant and ever-changing, just as the flower can change love in an instant.
'Love-in-idleness' is actually another name for the common pansy. Oberon the fairy king uses it as a means to take revenge on Titania the fairy queen.
It symbolises man's search for the ultimate magic pill which will enable a person to make the object of his love fall effortlessly,instantaneously and passionately in love with him.
The irony,ofcourse, is that the juice of this same flower when applied to the eyes of a person who is asleep and which is reputed to magically make that person fall madly in love with the very next living thing which that person sees as soon as he or she awakes is deliberately misused and abused by Oberon as a means to take revenge on his beloved queen Titania.
Oberon orders Puck to use the same flower to make Demetrius fall in love with Helena but total confusion prevails because of Puck's 'mistakes'. The play almost becomes a 'tragi-comedy of errors.'
But 'all's well that ends well' and the play ends happily.
The notion of love and the various forms of love are highlighted within the play and other plays by Shakespeare. The symbolic nature of the plant; name; qualities are important. Oberon is having a difficult time within his relationship and having to work
hard to get his way. 'Love in idleness - as the name suggests does not rely upon effort or personal choice. Somehow this natural plant can create the feelings of desire - thus hinting at the 'blindness' of humans when they feel in love. For instance consider 'Romeo' always in love with someone; beginning of 12th Night "If music be the food of love play on.."
Love is not rational or even controlable - Oberon is given help via the natural world - one where desires can override personal choice and intellect.